Charter firm eyes Asia-Pacific market

 - September 19, 2006, 6:04 AM

Executive charter broker Hunt & Palmer is opening an office in Hong Kong next month. This will serve as the UK-based company’s bridgehead for developing charter bookings in the potentially huge mainland China market. It also has a new charter brokering office in Singapore to handle the wider Pacific-Rim region.

“China will continue to be slow for the next two years but will then develop very fast,” Hunt & Palmer development director Jamie Martin told AIN, predicting that the charter business in the People’s Republic could be worth as much as $9 billion annually in 10 years. “There is a growing middle class there, and the Chinese like to demonstrate their wealth,” he added.

Martin said that a lack of capacity and choice of business aircraft in the region
is currently impeding charter growth in China. Infrastructure restrictions, such as complex processes for overflight and landing permit applications, are also standing in the way of market expansion in the area.

In the future, Hunt & Palmer intends to open Chinese branch offices in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou. Martin said that as China’s stock market opens up to further Western investment, he expects to see substantial demand for aircraft charters to transport banking executives around the vast country on the financial “road shows” that commonly launch share flotations.

Earlier this year, Hunt & Palmer opened an office in Spain and another in Rome. Martin said that so far this year, the European executive charter market has not been quite as healthy as expected–partly because there has not been the anticipated “explosion” in activity for the financial services industry. However, he added that prospects for the second half of this year are good, partly due to a busy schedule of product launches in the automotive industry.

Hunt & Palmer was founded 20 years ago in an attic room in London. It now has more than 60 employees, and also has offices in Paris, the U.S. and the Middle East.